Some scuba divers will experience breathing problems with a scuba regulator that is not related to over-breathing a regulator as I mentioned in a previous article. Some of which can be equipment related. However, most of the equipment related issues are, for the most part, preventable. Your experience level and comfort zone will help improve the likelihood that the problems will virtually eliminate with some attention to details.
Some of the less experienced divers, or one who does not dive too often, become overly excited about rushing into the water to start blowing bubbles and seeing what the underwater world has to offer. Not that the excitement is a problem, but some divers will begin to skip steps in the equipment setup. There are many issues that can come up in the event that the scuba equipment is not properly assembled. The intent of this article is to focus on breathing problems with a regulator at depth.
During the assembly process of the scuba equipment, after attaching the scuba regulator securely to the tank, you will need to turn the valve on. Some of the less experienced, overly excited, divers will have tendency to stop opening the valve half-way thinking that the valve is open all the way. Some may think that you do not need to open the valve all the way because air is coming out of the regulator. This is where the problem now comes in.
The first stage of the regulator (attached to the tank) needs a certain amount of consistent pressure in order to break it down to a consistent ambient pressure in the second stage (where you breath). With the valve not open all the way, the regulator is not able to maintain a consistent level of pressure to supply to the diver. What ends up happening is when you breath in on the regulator second stage, it reduces the pressure in the first stage of the regulator (attached to the tank). Essentially, you are depleting the air in the regulator system. In fact, if you were to take a look at the pressure gauge, you will see the needle (or numbers) actually go straight down, fast. Once you finish inhaling and start exhaling, you will notice the needle (or numbers) go back up to the fill pressure.
This will create a breathing problem at depth because you are sucking all of the air out of the regulator and there is not enough consistent pressure to the regulator to supply more air when you need it. As your breathing rate increases due to depth, current, excitement, etc, it will now become harder to breath. Even if you try to calm down, as I stated in the previous article, you may still not have enough air.
This is preventable with a proper equipment check and buddy check prior to all dives. It is even a good idea to put the regulator in your mouth, hold your pressure gauge up so you can see it, and take a couple breaths. In some cases, you will see the pressure drop drastically at the surface. In most cases, it will be even more noticeable at depth. It is just a good idea to make sure you have the valve on your tank cranked open all the way to prevent this issue altogether. Make sure you add this check to your pre-dive safely check so you can enjoy your dive so much more.